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Weekly Column

Flight of Fancy: DayJet May Be the First Peer-to-Peer Airline

Status: [CLOSED]
By Robert X. Cringely
bob@cringely.com

What, you don't have your own personal jet? Neither do I, but Ed Iacobucci wants to do something about that. Ed plans to send close to 300 little jet taxicabs into U.S. airspace so that when you go on a business trip in 2006 and beyond, you'll do so in style. And if Ed's business -- called DayJet -- is a success, it will say as much about computer networks as air transportation, because DayJet is really a peer-to-peer airline.

Ed Iacobucci founded Citrix Systems in 1989 to build a multi-user version of IBM's OS/2 operating system. Citrix is now the world leader in such areas as client-server operating systems for desktop and remote desktop products like GoToMyPC. And Ed has moved on to replicating the shared hardware model, this time on airplanes rather than personal computers. I have an airplane (I built it myself), but nearly all the time it just sits in a hangar. Ed's idea is to keep his planes in the air as much as possible, amortizing their purchase price over many customers, and in doing so, bringing down the cost of flying to where non-tycoons can afford it -- somewhere in the range of $1 to 3 per mile. That still sounds like a lot of money to me, but if it saves half a day of work and a hotel bill, it might not be all that expensive.

What makes DayJet possible today is technology -- technology that makes jets cheaper to buy and run and technology that makes it easier to find the most efficient path for 300 jets per day to serve several thousand customers.

DayJet's airplanes will be 269 Eclipse 500 very light jets -- five to six seat planes that have a top speed of 375 knots (431 mph) and can fly more than 1,000 miles. The Eclipse 500, itself, is a high-tech product with a huge link to the personal computer industry. Eclipse's CEO is Vern Raburn, who was an early Microsoft employee and later founded Symantec. Most of Eclipse's investors are from the PC industry, including Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen. The Eclipse 500 may well be the first airplane of its size to have an operating system (I'm told it is Microsoft-based) called Avio, and much of the avionics come from Avidyne, a company run by Dan Schwinn, who long ago founded networking company Shiva Corp., later sold to Intel.

The $1.3 million jets, which will start shipping next year, are supposed to be the safest and most fuel-efficient ever built.

The idea behind DayJet is a lot simpler than the technology it takes to make it happen. Many regional travelers are spending whole days going to airports, sitting in airports, flying to hubs, changing planes, and sitting in more airports that they could almost drive faster to their final destination. By going point-to-point when the passenger wants to fly, DayJet replicates that driving experience, but with a chauffer and at over 400 mph.

The difference between DayJet and a traditional aircraft charter is that all you'll be chartering is the seat you are sitting in. That means if you take a friend it costs twice as much, but it doesn't mean that you are paying for seats you don't use. And unlike a charter, DayJet won't charge for sending the plane to pick you up -- only for when you are actually in that seat.

Only time will tell if this concept is successful. I'm for it. Imagine skipping security lines and regional hubs and going right where you want to go.

What I find more interesting is looking at DayJet as a network application. In many ways, the Internet looks a lot like a typical large airline route map. Users connect to points-of-presence that link to ISP hubs at huge peering points that are, in turn connected by long distance backbone pipes. But until recently, the problem that makes a DayJet necessary hasn't also affected the Internet. That problem is simply hub scalability. O'Hare, Atlanta, and Los Angeles airports have finite capacities, and they've all shown that pushing past 80 percent utilization causes huge glitches and cancelled flights. One way around this problem is bigger airplanes, hence this week's first flight of the monster AirBus A380 double-decker. But another answer is bypassing the hubs altogether, hence DayJet.

Lately, I think we are starting to see the same effect on the Internet that we are seeing in these big airports: hub congestion. Fortunately, it is a lot quicker to add Internet backbone and router capacity than it is to build another runway. And airport studies have shown that past five to six runways, adding more concrete actually SLOWS DOWN the traffic because of ground traffic jams, so those poor blighters will have to build entire new airports, which typically takes a decade or more.

Hurray for DayJet!

Our answer to hub congestion on the Internet looks to be peer-to-peer. You can look at the Internet in terms of connections or traffic. Connections are highly scalable, but traffic isn't -- especially if much of that traffic is season five of "The Sopranos." One answer to this is peer-to-peer.

And yes, I know the same routers are involved. What we're mainly talking about here is server capacity.

Changing the subject, a very interesting news story came out this week. Steve Jobs of Apple is reportedly furious about an unauthorized biography of him that has been published by John Wiley. iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business by Jeffrey S. Young and William L. Simon bothered Jobs so much, we're told, that he ordered all Wiley books (notably the For Dummies series) pulled from Apple's more than 100 stores.

Nonsense.

I have written things about Steve Jobs that are far worse than anything in this book, which is in many ways just a refresh of an earlier Jobs biography by Young. Steve hasn't black-listed me. In fact he rather likes his bad-boy image and loves to hear the nasty things that people have said about him.

So what is this all about? As always, I have a theory.

I think this episode with Wiley and Apple's earlier legal attacks on people who it accused of leaking product information are part of a campaign to look tough to movie studios and record companies. As I've surmised before, Apple is trying to put together a high definition movie download service that requires content from all the major movie studios. If Steve looks soft on IP theft or unwilling to flex his corporate legal muscles, the studios may think he won't adequately protect their corporate jewels.

And that's all it is. Steve couldn't care less about this book.

Nor is Wiley unhappy. Here's word from a breathless reader inside the Wiley machine: "The news broke everywhere from the NY Times to Forbes. And the book shot up to #144 on Amazon, which is unheard of. Everyone is running around like crazy."

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